Friday, March 31, 2017

The Ultimate AgentThe Ultimate Agent by Derek Borne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to read a romance that had a near perfect half-half mix of secret agents a-la Bond with the whole wide world of superheroes and supervillains with enormous world-shattering powers and blame it all on gene-therapies?

Well, LOOK NO FURTHER. :)

Honestly, I was kinda surprised that such a secret agent novel should focus so heavily on food and wooing and googly eyes and a smoldering romance, but that IS a part of the whole mythos. However, it's also a rather huge part of this one, with perhaps a bit more emphasis on the love story than even the world-shattering action and climaxes, which are very evident and are quite larger than life, peppered throughout the entire text.

It's not a problem, of course. The action and the big magical action and battles are everything you'd want from a superhero movie, too.

This is a mixed genre novel, plainly said. Don't be fooled. It's a romance that has equally huge elements of techno-spies and superpowers. For what it is, it's quite good, but don't expect more than tradition requires of these genres, separately.

It was a neat diversion, and clearly written and fast-paced. :)

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As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess BrideAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is, by far and away, one of the warmest "let's get together and talk about the making of my favorite movie" books I've ever read, but I really need to remember that it's really nothing more than that. :)

I've already heard, from what seems like millions of sources, that Princess Bride touched them deeply and how it always seems to be a personal favorite film for each of us.

Hell, I find myself being one of those people. I LOVED the film. It has fantastic writing, great pacing, great acting, and even a three-act structure as if it was a Shakespearian play! :)

But mostly what I get from this book is an utter fan-service, and that's just fine if we love nostalgia, and we do. Don't we? Oh yes, we do. :)

I particularly love the tidbits about where Cary and Robin kept kissing and when Cary worked through a broken toe and, of course, just how much effort went into learning the swordplay. :) That was brilliant.




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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Delta of VenusDelta of Venus by Anaïs Nin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow.

I mean, I had never heard of this until recently when I had been dared to read it, and yes, I knew that I was getting into heavy erotica, but I hadn't expected it to be so damn good.

Seriously. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was almost completely unable to stand up during most of the read, and because I was using text-t0-speech, that mean being rather unpleasantly surprised as I was up and about during my day.

I wanted to scream out, "Oh, come on!" or "This isn't Fair!" at random people as I was reading.

And then, at various moments, I pondered the great mystery of why so many men don't read this kind of romance. It's very easy, my dear women. In fact's extremely hard to hide the fact. Forget about all the scoffing and the hems and the haws and all the condescending humor that jerky men use to explain why they don't read this stuff. It's all baloney.

This book is full of really good stuff.

Extremely good stuff: from the pure writing, the interweaving themes and characters and the way that the individual stories make up a much grander story of sexuality, right down the purely expert and sensual eroticism of the sex acts themselves. I've never read better, but I'll admit that most of what I've read has really been quite horrible.

Even so, I'm amazed at how sensual she can turn all these kinds of turns, or even the direction she takes them. So many of my own sensibilities were shocked and disturbed as I read a few particularly difficult scenes, but as a whole, the entire book was truly amazing. Perhaps all that illicit and taboo material functions fantastically as the spice that tips us in and out of our complacency and into the deeper animal parts of us that love to be shocked, allowing us to enjoy the rest of the tales like we're getting away with something even more absolutely naughty than it really might be.

Seriously, if every erotic writer or if ANY writer including a sex scene might take a page out of her book, so many of the greatest crimes against sex might be rectified.

Seriously, people, this is Literature, plain and simple, with a freedom applied to women's sensuality that is really quite brilliant. It should be studied, applauded, and copied. Alas.

I hope her writing is always remembered. :)

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Death Becomes Her (The Kurtherian Gambit, #1)Death Becomes Her by Michael Anderle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's not hard to categorize this book, even for all the little quirks that creep in that is not all that standard for our UF craze.

You named it: Vampires. Werewolves. Love-interest between the two. Oh, my.

Don't get me wrong, it's good for what it is, a fast-paced stereotype-laden action romp that tickles most of the fancies even as it fails to nourish. In other words, it's fast food.

Some of the dialogue reads out of a cliché manual, but the energy is bright and there seems to be real love from the author for the world he's building. It's right out of Vampire Masquerade, only the names have changed and the number of houses decreased, but that's fine, too. We're here to focus on the Underworld chosen one syndrome... and her name is Bethany. :)

BUT, let me tell you what it does right: Pace, high-energy characters, willingness to introduce some wacky SF elements, and the obvious build-up to some really Big Happenings later.

Wanna change the world, one torn throat at a time? This is probably your book. :)

I like it well enough, but I suspect that I like it more because I listened to the equally high-energy narration within the audiobook. I also suspect that any number of editing sins can be swept under the rug this way, too. :)

No matter. I enjoyed it.

I'll probably enjoy tearing through the rest of the series, too, because it's all a very light read that doesn't much challenge us. We can just roll with the action and the spunky (aggressive) heroine as she discovers just how much damage she can do to the world around her. :)




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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really TrueThe Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True by Richard Dawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To be sure, I need to be clear as to WHY I like this book. It's not like any of the science or reasoning in it is new or unusual, or that I haven't heard many similar reasonings here or there all the way from high school physics courses all the way to certain and strange movies I've enjoyed.

Why I do love this book is simple: it's clear, concise, and it does a very admirable job of setting up magical thinking in all its flavors against the fundamentals of science.

It's a great primer. I think I would have loved reading this when I was 13 or 14. It might have even sparked my interest in science even more than I had been sparked... but that might not be possible. Science Fiction did a perfectly admirable job in that department, with Heinlein and Asimov as my tutors.

Even so, apart from the things I've heard about of Dawkins, this is relatively mild in the religion bashing. He uses logic and reasoning, postulating clearly and setting up the universe as it is, not as we wish it would be. He also makes sure that Occam's Razor is quite sharp.

I certainly have no complaints about this book, assuming I wanted a basic primer, of course.

As for being an adult reading this? It's charming. It's somewhat magical in the sense that I draw a sense of wonder about the universe and our living within it. For that alone I would recommend it as a bit of light reading, assuming you're up to your science snuff. :)

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The Stargazer's EmbassyThe Stargazer's Embassy by Eleanor Lerman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for this Arc!

I honestly thought this was going to be a tongue-in-cheek novel based on the cover and even more so because the author is a poet and is pushing this title within literary SF.

What I read was nothing of the sort.

Instead, we get a very grounded and realistic rendition of the alien abduction world from a very strange member within it. She wants nothing to do with any of it. And, oddly enough, she was never abducted, just visited. A lot. There's a mystery here, of course, and Julia is utterly focused on living a perfectly normal life despite her upbringing, submerging herself in distractions and cleaning houses and businesses in the most mindless job she can and endlessly diving into all kinds of music to push the rest of the world away. No close friends or relatives, no desire for anything more... but of course everything changes.

I'm very impressed by this novel more because of its invested realism and honest reactions and the way its skeptical of sensationalism. Instead, we've got a novel that takes everything very seriously and backs it up with deep character development, wonderful details, and genuine outrage, antagonism, and fear.

In the respect that it writes clearly and fascinatingly about a sensational subject while always remaining firmly grounded and thoughtful, this is a literary novel. Only the subject itself is SF, but that's happening all the time, nowadays, as ideas become super-mainstream.

I totally recommend this for everyone in the mood for an extended and deeply explored X-File or that wonderful Spielberg adventure, Taken. This book is all about turning the alien legend on its head and giving the other side a chance to develop as much more than a conspiracy or a joke.

And even more importantly, it was a simple delight to read. :)

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Monday, March 27, 2017

The Bitterwood Bible and Other RecountingsThe Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings by Angela Slatter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Always clear and hauntingly beautiful, Angela Slatter can be realistically called one of the masters of the short fiction form, balancing earthy and detailed characters and settings that suck you in against chillingly dreadful stories of degradation, revenge, and magic.

Each story is poetry, but what really gets to me is the fact that each story in this collection, as with Sourdough, are connected.

Not all of them are obviously connected, and in fact, between these two books, they range over great spans of time and different towns and cities, not to mention so many different characters who sometimes show up as old people in other's tales or towns whose fates have gone the way of the dodo... usually because of the envents in the previous story.

Can I recommend this even more, and gloriously so? Absolutely! I'm a huge fan of world building in all its formats, but this stuff is the thing of cathedral stained glass and carefully tended trellises of roses.... with a very, very, dark bent.

I know people keep saying that she's been retelling old myths and fairy tales, but I want to say that she's gone one or two steps further. She's created brand new myths to enrich and enhance the old, even writing with such heart and passion as to put all other similar attempts to shame.

I can see myself reading and rereading these books for a very long time to come. They're so rich and wild and vibrant and deep. Because there's so much going on beneath the surface and in the wild world in general, and we're stuck within a very limited PoV locked within her own extremely interesting story, it's often hard to figure out exactly *when* we are in the wider tales, save for key events that show up in brief conversations or expositions, but one thing is certain: careful reading and perahps a rather large diagram or two can probably lay it all out for us.

Angela Slatter is a very clear and beautiful writer. That bears repeating. She's also telling some of the most haunting tales I've ever read.

But here's the best part: she never assumes we're stupid. She leaves the lion's share of the undercroft for us to explore for ourselves while the main characters dance above the graves of this old church.



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SnapshotSnapshot by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, I think this is one of Sanderson's better novellas, easily, and not just because it's housed in a police drama genre. :)

The simple concept of a whole world that can be replayed like a virtual reality is very much a Cosmere concept, but what he does with it, replaying the reality of the last day in order to hunt down a serial murderer, is really cool.

I can totally see myself getting into this as a part of a longer series, but the actions and events of this one is quite satisfying. I'm not complaining at all.

Simple story, interesting reveals, and best of all, a very clear voice and classic cop characters... with a superb twist. :)

(Even if it's kinda predictable, it's still a very well-written and satisfying story.)

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Salmon of Doubt (Dirk Gently, #3)The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's really amazing the amounts of nostalgia that can build up in a person's system before it kinda explodes into a kind of reverse word soup full of interviews, introductions, epilogues, and snippets of novels we wish we had but they were never penned because the author up and died on us.

I'm writing of Douglas Adams, of course.

I almost didn't re-read this one because I remember it WAS mostly just magazine articles and interesting early computer-tech stuff and ruminations on science, god, and other random bits that fly out of this wonderful man's brain in tightly humorous one-liners that explain not only life, the universe, and everything, but also the way his mind works... and this is all DESPITE the fact that Mr. DNA may or may not have had a functional nose with which to sneeze out those humorous one-liners.

So am I rating this entirely based on a man's ability to be clear, funny, horribly learned, and dead?

Yes, but it's gotta be more than that, and indeed it is. I loved the man.

I grew up reading and re-reading HHGttG about a bazillion times with or without the cheese sandwhich, playing countless hours on the Infrogames title of the same name being simultaneously corrupted and flabbergasted by my inability to create NO TEA, and learning how to fly by distraction.

I even decided when I was fourteen that I'd grow a beard for the distinct purpose of giving some poor hapless creature a traveling burial site to not see the rest of the world through.

DNA is that kind of man to me.

This book reminds me of just how regular a human he is and it is an unabashedly wonderful nostalgia piece to boot.

Oh, and we also get a few short stories including Ghengis Kahn, a non-presidential Zaphod, and the opening to the next Dirk Gently book which would have been fantastic, I'm sure, had he written it.

*sigh*

Still, what a wonderful thing it is. Farewell, Mr. Adams. (Yes. I know I'm 16 years late. It's just that this book was compiled shortly after his death, so I feel it fresh. Sue me.)



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Friday, March 24, 2017

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers, #2)A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been looking forward to this sequel for some time and I feel kind of sad it STILL took me so long to get a copy of it! It follows two of the most interesting characters from The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Lovelace and Pepper, but it does so by filling in the gaps, jumping from the past to the future following the end of the first book.

Do not expect a straight continuation of it, though. This is more of a very interesting dual-character study full of straight commentary and rather interesting AI/Alien/Human interactions.

Lovelace/Sidra and Jane/Pepper are both outcasts and are hiding from the law for what appear to be very stupid reasons from the reader's PoV, but it's all about context. It might as well be about same-sex relationships, but indeed, this is much more interesting for a SF fan: a love story for an AI in an illegal puppet body and the intense relationship she has with an outlaw techie. :)

Their histories are quite the ride.

Don't let me simplify this too much for you because we've got a huge cloning consortium, continuing tragedy, loss, starvation, and love for the only friend, an AI, who is lost... on one side of the coin.

And then we have the search for identity and sensation and the deepest need to be free to reprogram oneself and live the fullest life that one can.

Together or separate, I think I could follow these two character arcs forever. It's the writing more than anything else. The world-building is fantastic, the kinds of aliens diverse, but it's the depth of character exploration than cinches the deal.



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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Antony and CleopatraAntony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish you all the joys of the worm.

You know, for the longest time, I had placed this of all of Shakespeare's plays among the highest in my estimation, for where else could I have so many references to melting or even have an early punk band write a song about it? (Melt, Siouxsie and the Banshees)

Indeed, Let Rome in Tiber melt! I really enjoyed the triumvirate of powers, the play on politics and the whole chaos of such an equal footing between Ceasar, Antony, and Cleopatra. Can we blame the woman? Should we rather blame the man? Could it just be the ego and pride of Ceasar we should point a finger at? The whole world was at all of their feet, and yet all of their egos were too big for the Earth to hold them.

Honestly, the first portion of the play was easily the worst and I didn't love it nearly as much as my first reading. Rather, I enjoyed the play of words and the references to the classic legends surrounding Cleopatra and the rug more than the actual revolving scenes and action.

This isn't quite true for the unfurling of the real tragedy, however. I did love that as much as I had remembered.

But I can't, in all fairness, keep the last star just for the strength of the end, so I struck it. I let Eros be my scholar.

Still, not dead, not dead.



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Waking Hell (Station #2)Waking Hell by Al Robertson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm about to go squee a gonzo squee in this review. :)

I'm a huge Idea fan for SF and I might even be a bigger world-building fan for SF, but when you throw all of that into a huge pile of post-singularity super-futuristic data communes where people can live their lives as data "fetches" or go through the process of putting a suit of meat back on you, it gets really funky.

Better yet, space-station spanning AIs that are more like gods than anything else, playing games and knocking each other off, or just having the tale continue where the last one left off, the aftermath of a war in heaven where all the little AIs rose up and ousted the big AIs and our hapless noir characters are thrown in the center of the intrigue.

HOWEVER. This book does not continue directly from that point. The aftermath is the Totality, and we've got a new set of interesting characters to follow and see through yet ANOTHER mind-blowing finale.

I can respect this. It's really hard to find a non-contrived way to throw our favorite characters from the last book into a situation quite this huge, AGAIN.

Fortunately, Leila and Cassiel's teaming up was an awesome choice and I rocked to the tale of parsing out the mystery of Leila's brother's death and the enormous whammy of Deodatus, (an AI god, of course,) and just what the hell is happening on the two Stations and Earth, itself. The story gets big and badass.

From a sheer imaginative standpoint, I give this book top marks, but the story is also solid as hell, too.

Where else can you have a hard time determining what's really real or a virtual construct, flying through data streams and fighting of true data bugs, deploying viruses in the shapes of skulls and flies, or having your memory broken up and sold to the highest bidders upon your demise? I mean, damn! This kind of thing blows me away with so much coolness! Nothing is ever really explained, but who cares. This is a smart book for smart followers of SF and if you haven't been reading Al Robertson's stuff, yet, then you're missing out on a real achievement of the imagination.

I suspect the author is going all out to write what he most wants to read, and I applaud the hell out of it. I can only wish that such books will gain tons of popularity because I could do with a LOT MORE of this post-cyberpunk post-singularity fantastic goodness. :)

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So yeah, I know I'm late to the bandwagon here and I nearly promised myself I wouldn't read it just because it was YA and super popular and blah blah blah, but I got over my stupidity and read it, even if I'm nearly 5 years late to the party.

And what did I think?

Ah, crap.

It's one of those near-perfect books.

Need I say more? Perhaps.

It punches me in the feels even when I feel like I've hardened myself against all this damn pathos and humor and hard looks at mortality and this unswerving existential courage.

It's smart and it doesn't hold back and while it's written from a teen PoV, it's just real and heartbreaking and real. Yes, it's the ideal of Art breaking through the Art and stumbling into Life. Only, it doesn't really stumble. It kinda does a wheelie and breathes hard at the same time.

I was fully prepared to read this and go... Eh? What was the big deal about? I was fully prepared to shake my head and go... so silly. But no, I was proven wrong and even that super popular stuff can also be good, deep down, too. Wow.

Hello, cancer.

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Wicked WondersWicked Wonders by Ellen Klages
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I've never read Ellen Klages before, but I can definitely say that she has a talent for understated and richly-drawn character tales.

These aren't meant to blow you away with reveals, but they are subtle and powerful explorations of youth (mostly) and they're definitely good for nostalgia.

A great deal of them will have slight magical twists, but I've got the impression that they're mostly nostalgic histories of Americana. It's mild and slightly subversive and the kinds of reveals are almost always social or personality.

It's nice.

Not particularly the kind of fiction I generally go for, and I generally liked the future SF in this collection better, especially the one about a baby on Mars, but I can easily say that all of these stories are very well written. Quality. :)


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Sunday, March 19, 2017

My Man Jeeves (Jeeves, #1)My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Slapstick Aristocracy? I guess that pretty much sums it up. The butler is always smarter and more ingenious than anyone else in the book. :)

It's pretty and pretty much the beginning of all other similar writings and imitators, and for that, I really appreciate it. Moreso, it's funny and still relevant even if it's just a tad dated. We've still got tons of historical novel interest, but this one was timely for its day in 1919.

The timing and the idiocy and the fairly complicated plotting in the background really made poor Wooster shine as the idjit that he is. I heartily recommend this for anyone interested in the humorous classics.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Dirk Gently, #2)The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had to re-read this because I'm insane but I'm happy to be so because I still loved it.

Total truth time: it's not quite as funny or as sharp in the individual zinger lines as Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, but the long-running story gags are fantastically wicked and cruel and even profoundly sad.

It's also more of an adventure tale for Dirk later on, but primarily, it's all a mystery. Sometimes, the plot is as much of a mystery, too, but I don't care. :) After the rising of new gods in Asgard and the fate of soooo many pebbles, and the dark, dark fate of a Coke machine, who really cares? The novel is brilliant and creative and so darkly funny. It's enough to make me despair for modern literature, and this came out in '88!

Here's another awesome tidbit. It's the novel that I first thought of when I first read American Gods. All the greatness of seeing Odin on the page or Thor blowing up an airport is all here and the characterizations are brilliant.

Can I even say that it's even more brilliant after knowing the legends much better? You bet I can! I read this when I was 14 years old the first time and let's be frank... I didn't know crap. I learned most of what I knew about Thor from this book and the fact that there was some silly Marvel comic that I wasn't even tempted to read was about it. And now? Soooooo Nice! :) Even the little In-Jokes about the gods are all here. It's a bit more erudite than I expected it to be. :)

But it's also so funny! Do I love eagles even more now? You bet! Am I even more annoyed with Yuppies? You bet! Do I want to run out and get some 300 count sheets and snuggle in them, perhaps get an eyepatch and avoid big strapping men with hammers? You bet!

Poor Dirk. I have to admit that his Horoscope is always dead-on. :)

My one complaint is that there wasn't a whole series made out of this. I still wonder just how amazingly cool it could have been to have a full bookcase full of these and point to it as the most amazing thing EVAH.

*sigh*

Some authors just overflow with goodness. Douglas Adams was one of them. *sigh*

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently #1)Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I last read this when I was really young and was shortly getting off a fantastic kick of HHGttG wanting MORE, as, I assume, most people do when they get on a Douglas Adams kick.

Like the other series, every page is filled with wonderfully witty and fascinating and wise (crack) quotes that will delight and amaze and generally blow most writing away by the sheer audacity.

To think that Douglas Adams never considered himself a writer! Truly amazing. And of course us fans just snicker at that and keep reading.

I admit to really liking this but not loving it as much as the Hitchhiker series. I don't know. Maybe I just wanted more of the idiot and less of the incomprehensible mystic in systems-theory sheep's clothing.

What can I say? As an adult, I'm doing an about-face and saying that this might be better by far. It's still wacky and zany and full of oddball moments, but it's closer to Earth... mostly... just not always in the same time-zone. :) And on top of that, it was fun as hell getting into all the old computer stuff and getting into the poetry and the music and ESPECIALLY the problem of the couch.

The couch stayed with me all these years and it was such a wonderful character. It almost reaches the same heights as a certain fridge in the next book. Of which I'm doing a re-read next. :)

Now, to be sure, I probably wouldn't have done a re-read at all if it hadn't been for the BBC tv production of the same name, and even as I was watching it I was going... "Is this remotely the same?"

Definitive answer: SOME. lol. Not all that much. Characters, some. Situations, hints. Zany? That's full-tilt. :) All said, no complaints on either side of the tv screen. )

I'm glad to be doing all of the above. :)

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The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood, #2)The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second book in the Dreamblood duo continues on in a tradition of immersive Egyptian-like settings, although the culture is still uniquely Jemisin's: a city built on the idea of peace, magic users that harvest and gift dreams, a plague of dreams harming so many people, and a war in the desert.

There's a lot to love, and surprisingly, at least to me, was the strong continuation of the romance from the first, so much so that it practically dominates the entire tale. I might even go so far as to say it's a lot more important and interesting than the actual battle... but not quite as interesting as the dreamplague. That trumps everything. :)

I really enjoyed the romance even though it felt like it snuck up on me, and perhaps I enjoyed it for that precisely that reason. I was mostly being asked to focus on cultural differences, whether regarding the prejudices between two cultures with their magic, the sexual divergences, or the personal revelations, so when the romance finally took center stage, I was kinda wowed.

Unfortunately, some aspects of the novel, no matter how rich in world building or depth of characterizations, still let me down, but only slightly. I'll admit that I'm a much bigger fan of Jemisin's later works.

But still, I appreciate what is accomplished here. :)

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Avengers of the MoonAvengers of the Moon by Allen Steele
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

Ed Hamilton's old Captain Future stories of the 40's are Golden Age SF staples.... or pulp fiction... that many people have loved and promptly forgotten through the ages, but not completely forgotten.

In case you're wondering what the Golden Age SF is, it's the zap guns, the cyborgs, the Robbie robots, the classic rocket-ships, the dastardly villains and the exotic locations -- It's that kind of thing. :) Goofy names, heavily telegraphed plots, and especially -- the pathos!

The thing is, Allen Steele writes a real homage to Ed Hamilton's character, including better reasons, updated technology to fit today's SF standards, and even a much better character lineup. You know -- characters that avoid stupid robots, complex brains in jars rather than just crazy ones, women who aren't cardboard with boobs, and interactions across the board that doesn't just make me laugh my way through the book as if I was reading a caricature of really silly (and bad) SF.

This isn't bad. It feels like an updated boy's adventure tale with regular men with better tech doing heroic things and using silly names for somewhat silly reasons.

It's nice for what it is and what it wants to accomplish.

But do I really call it High-SF? No. I do appreciate it for being what it is. It'd be good as a YA SF. It's clear and it's direct. It's bigger than life. Better yet, it's DIFFERENT from anything else that's been written for 70 years. It's good enough to bring people back into a feel of a different time and outlook while not regressing into cultural awkwardness, to give us all that taste of an optimistic and idealistic world where good guys win and bad guys get justice, not just death.

For these reasons, I totally recommend it for anyone. :)

But if you have nagging questions like why Curt let so many people die while saving the one man he wanted to kill and how that fits into his growing moral code.... then perhaps you might want to let this slide a little. :) *ahem*



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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Iron Maiden (Holly the Great, #1)The Iron Maiden by Andy Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this as a beta and even so, I really thought it was quite excellent. A solid entry into the fantasy field, for one, but what really blew me away was its extremely strong climatic action scenes.

Seriously cool action scenes. I mean, ignore the fact that Holly's mysterious past and the even more mysterious voice that sits inside her mind is driving the characterization for a moment, or that her insertion into the kingdom is just a step into a nasty series of politics.

It's the big action at the end where this novel really shines. And I mean seriously cool action scenes on an epic battlefield full of fascinating and crazy and enormous monsters and even worse things to follow right after. :) Not to give away what makes it cool, but there's a lot of noisy music and steampunk-ish nightmares right before we get into Shrike-like monstrosities right out of Dan Simmon's Hyperion, only taken a bit farther. :)

There are some places where I think the pacing could be picked up and some of the place descriptions, likewise, but truly, I can't recommend the ending enough. :)



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Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Shining GirlsThe Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The one thing that impresses me the most about this book is the sheer ambition.

I mean, it's a Mystery cat-and-mouse game told from killer who can hop through time from Depression Era through the early nineties, getting his depraved game of meeting little "shining" girls and coming back moments later when they're all grown up to brutally murder them.

And then we also get a heavily researched and deeply characterized slew of female victims that reads more like a brilliant historical novel than what could have been a few hops and slashes with vague settings... No. Beukes does all her research and does it right. I'm damn impressed.

The rest of the plot is still a cat-and-mouse from the PoV of a girl who had gotten away, learned to live with being eviscerated, and who set herself on the path of piecing together this mystery killer against all odds, getting in tight with an ex-murder-investigator and badgering him to death and often not succeeding. :)

All told, I'm very impressed. It's all about the characters, the settings, and absolutely hating the bastard time-travelling murderer.

I totally recommend this to anyone who's a fan of both mystery and time-travel. :) There's a lot of gory goodness.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Deadpool: Dracula's GauntletDeadpool: Dracula's Gauntlet by Brian Posehn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one hell of a magical romance.

I mean, sure, it's Deadpool, but he's very, very romantic. In fact, if I were Dracula wanting some Merc with a Mouth to pick up my super-monster bride and bring her back across the world, I'd DEFINITELY choose Wade Wilson. It's a no-brainer. I'd even think it's a good idea to think he's given up on the mission and send someone after him, too.

DUH.

So yeah, of course this is a tale of Cuckholding Dracula and the inevitable no-holds-barred free-for-all between werewolves, mummies, Frankenstein's Monster, some weird centaur dude that's a werewolf and bonded with an alien symbiote who also has diabetes, and of course a full-blown Monster Mash all through NYC, but without the Ghostbusters. Alas.

And Wade gets the girl.

Pretty awesome, right? It is. It's also funny as ****.

I can't believe he got *******!

I hope to hell that all the Deadpool comics are this funny and wacky. If this is a good sampling, I'm gonna be having myself a real BBQ. With chimichangas. Hmmm.

Still. Poor Frank.

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The Immortal Iron Fist, Volume 5: Escape from the Eighth CityThe Immortal Iron Fist, Volume 5: Escape from the Eighth City by Duane Swierczynski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Corruption and controversy in Heaven. The Seven Cities were built upon the backs of others, just as the Rand Family got its fortune from Heaven. Danny's on a quest to right all wrongs, even if that means going to hell.

Literally. The Eighth City was the place where all the baddies were put. And there's a surprise waiting inside for all the Immortal Weapons who are going there to right all these past wrongs.

No, no, the surprise isn't that they're tortured for what seems like an eternity. That's a given. lol

The story itself is strong and the consequences are far-reaching. I just have to wonder if the Iron Fist comics after this run does it justice. It's good, here. I just have to wonder, you know?



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The Immortal Iron Fist, Volume 4: The Mortal Iron FistThe Immortal Iron Fist, Volume 4: The Mortal Iron Fist by Duane Swierczynski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one takes a step up from the rest and gives us a very nice and scary twist. It works well because the powers of the Iron Fist do spread across all generations and we love a character that is presented with a huge drawback... this one being that no Iron Fist lives past his 33rd birthday.

Oops.

Happy Birthday, Danny.

I liked the story very much and especially how he managed to survive it. It was a close thing. Great volume here.

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The Immortal Iron Fist, Volume 3: The Book of the Iron FistThe Immortal Iron Fist, Volume 3: The Book of the Iron Fist by Matt Fraction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have a split mind on this volume. The stories in it are pretty good, standalone, rather one-shot pieces of past Iron Fists. Good, but only tangentially have anything to do with Danny's main story. Good for backstory and the whole legend, but not great for keeping the pacing up.

Fortunately, the art and their tales ARE good.

Win some, lose some. I still love it all, however. :)



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The Immortal Iron Fist, Volume 2: The Seven Capital Cities of HeavenThe Immortal Iron Fist, Volume 2: The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've never known about Iron Fist before now, so getting all this backstory for Danny's father and Davos and the Cities of heaven blocked from the regular world except by a special device OR 1en years is all pretty fascinating. I love the tournament, too, but I really loved the whole women's revolution in Heaven. :)

It was also a hoot to see Luke Cage and Misty Knight get cold as hell. :)

And so much Hydra! :)

Having a good time.

It might not be the best comic ever but it's certainly some of the better!

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The Immortal Iron Fist, Volume 1: The Last Iron Fist StoryThe Immortal Iron Fist, Volume 1: The Last Iron Fist Story by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, I wasn't expecting *quite* that much story packed into the first volume! Color me very pleasantly surprised.

I mean, we've got hints as to Danny's creation, the fact that he's the 66th of his line, that he has the powers of a vast cosmological dragon running through his veins, and that that fist of his does a ton more than just explode bad guys. It mesmerizes, too! Cool!

Oh, yeah, and his cowardly predecessor who should be dead shows up and decides to give himself the fateful sendoff that all Iron Fists usually get in the end.

It's all about the good death, after all. And Hydra. Lots of Chinese Hydra and boardroomy hijinx and massive scorpion mecha-beasts and LUKE is here too!!! :)

Best of all, though, is the fact that there's SO MUCH STORY going on.

Did I mention when I LOVE when there's tons of good story going on in a comic? Yup. Delicious. :)

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Gemini CellGemini Cell by Myke Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here's a neat trick and no bones or grafted body parts about it: Cole's writing is improving by leaps and bounds with each book.

The novel starts with a lot of great gory action perfect for all you special-forces fans with a hankering for a huge kill-count. I'll be honest, however. It took a while before the strange finally kicked in and before we got the magic, the jinn, the undead, and all sorts of nasty feral flesh crafting, but it was quite worth it.

Don't assume this is a normal UF, though, it's Fantasy-Military fiction, and our main character has ALL of these little elements within just little old him. :)

More than all the other novels that Cole has written, this one is the most character-driven, focusing more on family and his relationship with his wife, and also there's a lot of PoV from her, too. There's a lot of buildup, discovery, confusion, and development. I might say, firmly, that this is the novel's main strength. Or maybe that strength is tied with all the gory goodness that goes on between all the character developments. :)

This can be considered a distant prequel to his other novels, all early days of magic and full of deep-cover ops... preferably head wraps to hide the cadaver stare, actually. :)

Quite good. Quite fun. Still popcorn fiction, but there's a definite trend toward deeper goodness going on here. This time we've got some VERY interesting PSTD. :)

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

RevengerRevenger by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Aside from some very amusing and possibly very *accurate* rants about this book, namely that the dialogue is sometimes *crappy*, the sciencey-bits are rather *weak*, and the fact that the made up words are pretty damn *generic*, most of the tale is *still* better than sooooooo much of the adventure space-opera out there.

Is it YA? Good question. Probably. But it's middle teens at the very worst. Expect pretty cool violence throughout, a single-minded protagonist girl, and a basic premise where this same girl vows revenge against space pirate and goes to amazing lengths and harsh changes to get her revenge...

It's still a straight adventure tale. There's cool things to figure out, such as different kinds of strange alien worlds that hold loot to the right captain with the right Bone-callers at the right time, making fortunes or breaking your neck in the process, and of course, PIRATES.

It's not a light tale. We're given a lot of build-up for Fura before everything goes to hell, so don't expect anything more than straight light adventure until then... and then go ahead and expect darkness the rest of the time.

I personally liked the basic story and the twists and turns. I can ignore the other complaints as perhaps the author attempting to keep the tale relatable to a younger crowd, but I also think it was a miscalculation, too.

Depth of feeling and being likable trumps easy terms. :) Fura was kinda lacking on that, plus I'm not quite sure I liked the explanations why this girl keeps switching between erudite and low-class in her speech. It wasn't quite natural. *shrug*

Other than that, the rest of the novel felt like part of the Revelation Space universe to a degree, including weird time-like portals, aliens that infest our bodies and change the way we see and think, robots, and some really, really cool tech which *IS* the purpose of these Treasure Island bits, after all.

It's a grab bag of goodies. Either you can get through all the things that bug you or you can't. There *IS* a solid story in here, however, and its conclusion was quite cool.

Just ignore the apparent intelligence of everyone other than the MC and you'll do fine. :)



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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Alien Hunters (Alien Hunters, #1)Alien Hunters by Daniel Arenson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Honestly?

There's an amusing juxtaposition of fantasy stereotypes writ large upon a standard Space-Opera.

Sure, I love the musician gig, the chase, the big ship reveals, the wild assortment of strange characters especially a certain little gas-guzzling demon, the big pincers on the big evil alien spacecraft....

But it's all kinda... standard? I love my stereotypes, but this one is pretty much what I think of when I think of Standard Space-Opera. Like it might have been a pretty good and traditional flashy Sci-Fi movie that I'd pretty much forget after having a pretty good time.

Fun and flashy and gone? Pretty much. Fast-paced, clear, and amusing.

Let's have some fun!

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3)A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The third definitely has a very good and satisfying end. :)

It's pretty much an epic ride and destruction of Kell's homeland, with the demon of chaos and magic running rampant and generally being smarter than the rest of the characters as well as being a lot more powerful. I was sitting on the edge of my seat to see just how our heroes would pull off a fix or even if there could be a fix.

It is definitely hard to pull off a good end with a series like this, but I'm happy to say that the author does it, wrapping up so many loose ends and even addressing the original first book's trick by forcing us down the path of a truly hard fix. And it was hard.

And painful. There were deaths.

I definitely don't have any complaints. :) I really enjoyed this book. It has quite the pathos, great action, and tons of magic and, of course, many destructions of all, or almost all, Londons. :)

What more can we ask for? We all love to see London burn, don't we? :)

I totally recommend for story and character and all the magical goodness. :)

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Breach Zone (Shadow Ops, #3)Breach Zone by Myke Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, things really went to hell for everyone in this book. :)

New York is invaded, goblins are overrunning the shores, whole sections of the city are under otherworld control and the battle rages on with both Oscar and Bookbinder on different battlefronts and our favorite evil Probie at the head of the hoards.

God, I love Scylla.

The action is ramped up a couple of notches for this book, so eat your heart out, action fans. It's big and it keeps getting bigger.

But here's the really strange bit: guess who is the main PoV? Harlequin. Yeah. The guy I love to hate. But here's the best part: he is full of reasons and big reveals that have everything to do with Scylla. With flashbbacks from 6 years prior throughout this novel and the nature of their relationship slowly being revealed as being written large upon this enormous scale of World Vs World, I can honestly say this was my favorite of the books even if I never thought I'd like the character.

Live and learn, right? Another reviewer mentioned that this is the Lannister effect, and I suppose it is. It's hard not to enjoy and sympathize with our big bads when we get into their minds. :)

It's still popcorn fiction, but this is action/destruction-movie quality. :) With magic.



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Sunday, March 5, 2017

The HikeThe Hike by Drew Magary
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazing. If any of you are looking for a pure adventure of unrivaled creativity and depth transformed from utter normality to strangeness and then topped off with a great ethical and moral conclusion topped off at the end, delivered with a really strong emotional punch to the gut, then look no further.

The hike feels, at first, like a silly and sometimes rather funny adventure, starting off with a hike during a business trip. But then it soon becomes a fantasy-land and terror-strewn nightmare and then we're treated to a wonderful reversal-filled surprise after surprise.

What this isn't, even though it's written light and fast and funny, is a strictly light and fast and funny adventure. It's dark and it's soulful and it not only touches upon the idea of what Home is, but it also explores Determinism and its converse, transforming a crazy hike into a nearly spiritual exploration of The Path, whatever the path is. Our personal journey? Perhaps Journey? Regardless, it's so much more and it's a true delight to have read this.

I honestly didn't expect it to turn out this good or this deep. Bravo! My faith in humanity is restored. My faith that wildly imaginative literature continues to be written, and written fearlessly, and all the while a great Tale is told as well.

Go Ben!

Anyone want crabcakes?

I totally recommend this for EVERYONE. It's just that good. :)



"The man who sailed around his soul
From East to West, from pole to pole
With ego as his drunken captain
Greed, the mutineer, had trapped all reason in the hold

The man who walked across his heart
Who took no compass, guide or chart
To rope and tar his blood congealed
When he found his self revealed ugly and cold"

-Andy Partridge, XTC, "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul"



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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Fortress Frontier (Shadow Ops, #2)Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The big thing about over-the-top action flicks (or books like this) is that we've got heavily stereotyped hero characters from all walks of life doing heavily stereotyped things in big flashy over-the-top action scenes.

It's kinda the defining characteristic. We sometimes love to have a big steaming plate of our favorite foods over and over and over because it tastes good and it's comforting... and this is no different.

Bookbinder is a paper-pushing Officer who awakens with frighteningly powerful magics and gets sent to the front lines in the Other World. He's smart, he's flexible, and he's not willing to let obvious problems slide... like having all the supplies to the Forward Base cut off.

Of course, the only one who can reestablish connections is a certain AWOL soldier from the first book.

See how this works? Simple tale. Lots of flashy magics and Army Hoo-Rah, can-do attitudes, pathos, and competence versus corruption. And did I say that it's flashy? It is. Popcorn fiction.

Magic and the Army. Fast-paced, nothing really new, but still written in that shiny way that is pure edge-of-your-seat entertainment.

I liked this one a lot more than the first. :) It has a brand new problem with stereotypes, too, eschewing the whole Indian thing for a Hindu thing. *sigh* But it's hard to take any of it seriously, here, because these cardboard characters are even bigger and shinier than the ones in the first book. It's like... Wow. Look at that. Good thing they're all Nagas, right? *shakes head*

Still, don't let me get you down. It was still a great mindless action flick. :)

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Destroyer (Foreigner, #7)Destroyer by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book marks the start of the third sub-trilogy of the series and a very welcome return back to the Atevi Homeworld.

Now while I did enjoy the spacetravel and the intrigue with the new aliens and the mess with the other space-station, I really love the fact that we're returning to where my love of the series began.

We left with the world practically unified under Tabini, but when Bren returns to the system only to find that supplies from the world aren't getting to the space station and the main continent is in turmoil and Tabini is presumed dead, grandmother Ilisidi and Tabini's young son and Bren go harrowing off to find support in the mainland or at least some word as to Tabini's fate.

The Atevi can't lose space! Not like this! No!!!

This one is full of politics and poor Bren still trying to figure out the deep fundamental differences between the Atevi and the Human mindsets, becoming a mystery much greater than that and a full-out action novel later, still.

God, I love this series. It really has everything. Characters we're deeply invested in, absolutely gorgeous worldbuilding, and truly fantastic stories that are both very grounded and intricate.

This series is still going strong 10 books after this, too!!! :) I can't wait to get to them!


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Friday, March 3, 2017

Till We Have FacesTill We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This seems to be the right time of year to pick out a ton of books all focused on retelling old Greek myths!

Perennial favorite C. S. Lewis went out of his way to retell the story of Psyche and Cupid from the PoV of Orual, the ugly sister, and it's a very well-told tale. He admits he uses the original as a template and goes on to make a much more psychological and grounded tale than the original, and he pulls it off delightfully, full of Orual's obsessive angst, her striving to be better, her complaints against the gods, and eventually the god's replies.

More than the original, I think, this retelling captures the darker and more intricate differences and pulls off an entirely different level of storytelling. There's the surface story, the tale told by the Fox about the actual Greek legend, and the under-story which is a purely psychological exploration of all the secrets that the original legend tells us.

It's very Psyche-logical. :)

Out of all of Lewis' works, I think I like this the best. :)

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Control Point (Shadow Ops, #1)Control Point by Myke Cole
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I come out of reading this horribly divided. On the one hand, I love the "give the audience what it wants" mentality, lots of explosions, driven and heroic characters, caricatured villains, and MAGIC MAGIC MAGIC MAGIC in a MIL-SF backdrop.

I wanted to just come out of this going: Well, that was a bunch of mindless hokey fun, a total popcorn read where I can turn off my mind and just WATCH THE DAMN ACTION MOVIE. Book. Whatever.

Story-wise, it's all boilerplate and totally classic, the hero falls in with the supposedly good crowd, questions everything, falls out. In the meantime, it's all explosions and portals and mini-epic fights and magic flying everywhere with death delivered to the page with a bright and shiny bow.

Nice, right? I thought so, too.

However,

I can't just sit by and see a lot of casual racism without commenting on it. I feel rather disgruntled. Sure, stereotypes abound in this book. It's what lets us dive right in without any learning curve, but some stereotypes can bite you in the ass. Like Native Americans. It's one thing to have them be the stereotypical resistance, but they're also the bad guys who let the "dangerous magics" run wild. We get one token Indian working for the good guys, too, but he's harmless because they've got him drugged to the gills. And then on top of that, if this wasn't bad enough, we've got the goblins. Who is a stand-in for the Indians. Including the token goblin working for the good guys.

With mirrored tropes like this, we're practically forced to assume a whole slew of things as if it is natural and obvious when in reality it's just a bunch of racism in disguise. Those damn goblins sure get drunk easy (on sugar). And don't think this is just me making this up. There are dozens of similar examples. It only LATER becomes clear that the author is *really* just talking about colonialism and it's *really* all about the Gulf Wars, etc., and maybe it is that, TOO, but the rest marred my enjoyment. Stereotypes like questioning heroes and the big bad military industry and politicians are all good fun, to a point, but others are a real landmine.

It's all under the surface for the most part except for a jerk who gets blatant about it, and our MC is always very PC, but I spent a good deal of the novel wondering if this subtext was going to be a major STORY issue because otherwise, I was going to have to quit this series.

Final estimation? Well, we're in with the indigenous at the end, so perhaps it gets better, but I need to see a lot more effort.

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Bright Air BlackBright Air Black by David Vann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

I knew I was going to get a retelling of Medea from her point of view during the quest of The Golden Fleece and after, with Jason, but I wasn't quite prepared for just how beautiful the lines of the text were. I mean, getting it all from the PoV of Medea was a pretty awesome treat, all by itself, and found myself fully in her camp despite all the awful things she does, but what really caught my attention, even more, was the prose.

This is some true mythopoetical realism, yo.

I will admit that there were some parts during the first half of the text that could have been improved, at least making the text more accessible those who haven't studied up on the old legends and the plays, for so much of the action has already happened right when the prose opens up. I'm not going to complain too much, however, because even though it assumes the audience is conversant with the legend, it doesn't really matter after a certain amount of time.

Yes, we know Medea is a bad-ass, willing to tear the world down to prevent her slide into slavery. She's a beast willing to rend to keep herself out of chains.

I particularly love how the author managed to turn someone like this into a heroic figure even more than half the time, and even when she's doing her most evil deeds, I feel for her and want to cheer her on.

That's a real feat.

Is this niche? Or does this have all the feel of Big Magical Realism for Mainstream? I don't know, but it could certainly go either way. :) I enjoyed it very much, too.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wolf Moon (Luna, #2)Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

This is definitely the kind of series where you have to want to pay very close attention to the sharp, precise lines of text, enjoy truly convoluted political machinations, and not mind a lot of weird sex.

What a weird thing to say about a novel, right? But it's true! After so many brilliant and beautiful descriptions of tall towers on the moon, of falling from great heights, both literally and figuratively, we see the grandeur and the decadence and the hubris writ large and upon a grand scale.

It's not just the fall of the moon we have to deal with or it's families squabbling over the remains of a great house that isn't *quite* dead, it's the amazing breadth of the big tale and the sheer oddities of the characters that make this novel -- and the one before it -- shine.

That's not to say I wasn't horribly disgruntled with long passages were things weren't happening to the main plot or when we had to get into all the deviancies of our main characters, in grand detail, making me wonder when the quite ripe core of the tale was going to come to fruit.

I was already thirsting to hell for revenge at the end of the first novel.

The second takes its sweet time getting closer, but alas, even after so much new destruction and close-calls, including a rather traditional (and harrowing as hell) moonwalk in horrible circumstances, we're still not quite ready for the revenge.

Am I alone in wanting a bit of good bloodshed and the turn of the wheel? I hope not! :)

Still, middle novel or not, it's a grand continuance of the buildup of what ought to be a truly stunning tour-de-force of politics, ruthlessness, Great Families, and bloodlust. Godfather Style on the Moon. :)


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